I’ve had many friends share their volunteer stories with me — about the rewarding work and the chance to meet interesting people. I’ve also had friends tell me that they’re never going back to work for an organization again.
Would you rather be part of the first club or the second?
You definitely want to be a part of the second!
To make a great impression, you must get to know your volunteers, make them feel appreciated and recognize their achievements. What are their interests? What are their hobbies? Give them a gift! Not only will volunteers enjoy it, they will recognize the fact that you cared enough to notice what they like.
These are the makings of a great workplace, one that values its biggest asset …. Volunteers!
I have put together a list of things that you can try to make your volunteers feel valued and appreciated for the time and effort they put in.
Match tasks with skills
A way to show value is to place each volunteer in a job that holds his interest and makes good use of his talents and potential. Volunteers should not be bored; they should feel engaged, useful and excited to do the work they are doing.
If a person is artistic, have him make posters and flyers advertising your events. Give him a bag of artist’s tools as an appreciation gift.
If a person values social interaction, have him make phone calls or meet the public. Give him a gift such as tickets to a musical event or get-together.
If a person is exuberant and outgoing, have him be the host for your event. Give him his hat and cane as mementos and a video or picture of himself in the role.
Let your volunteers know that their work makes a difference
Helping volunteers understand the impact of their work is motivating and rewarding. Show them how they have contributed to the cause and helped improve the society. Make sure not to keep volunteers confined to the office. Send them out into the field on occasion so they can directly interact with the people whose lives they’re helping make better.
Trust your volunteers
Give volunteers meaningful tasks that have higher stakes, doing so makes them feel responsible, demonstrating trust. Trusting your volunteers makes them feel appreciated and valued. It shows that you recognize their time and effort.
A simple thank you can go a long way in making volunteers feel valued. You can do this formally at a staff meeting or informally in person, through emails, by telephone or texting to send out personalized thank yous. Some others ways to thank volunteers is to write about their contributions in newsletters or weekly. Remember to be consistent and fair and do not favor a particular group.
Keep them in the loop
Keeping volunteers updated on what is happening with the organization is important. As volunteers are your most valuable asset you must always keep them in the loop. This way volunteers feel involved and more connected with the organization.
Create an identity
Creating an identity makes volunteers feel like they are a part of your team. Give them matching clothing to wear or come up with cool badges or ID cards. This raises team spirit among volunteers and also helps identify them, not just in public but within your organization. This way volunteers will gain respect and recognition from the public, thereby increasing their value.
Motivate your volunteers to attend developmental training relevant to their role in the organization. This becomes important for the ones who volunteer to develop their CV or boost their employability skills. The training sessions can be online or offline, whichever is convenient for you. Invite volunteers to seminars, conventions or meetings, placing value and importance to their roles.
Let volunteers voice their opinions
Allow volunteer to have a say in planning and shaping activities, tasks and practices. Set up an anonymous suggestion box where everybody can put in their thoughts on how to make it a better work environment. Invite volunteers to be a part of committees, ask for their comments and acknowledge their involvement. This shows volunteers that you value them.
Host awards ceremonies to give recognition to your staff, celebrate achieved milestones and success of volunteers. Give out awards for team efforts, long time in service, inspiring volunteers or a lifetime commitment. Give out awards to the ones who are not nominated, to acknowledge their contributions. Make arrangements to recognize volunteers who cannot attend the awards ceremony.
Make it fun to volunteer
Create volunteer hang-out space inside your organization. Provide them with refreshments so that they can come early and get to know each other. Invite them for Sunday brunches or surprise them with something special You could keep scoreboards, speedometers, or grades to encourage volunteers and to keep up the healthy competition, making things fun and entertaining.
Remember, whether you are organizing a school, church, or community fundraiser, or hosting a youth group, part of being a good leader is to make volunteers feel appreciated.